On Monday, March 9, 2015, the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) approved a package of so-called “emergency” regulations for California’s new Firearm Safety Certificate (“FSC”) Program and safe-handling demonstrations. The “emergency” regulations, proposed by the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”), took effect immediately after being rubber stamped by OAL.
The FSC Program, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 11, 2013, requires every individual wishing to take possession of a firearm in California to first take and pass a written test and to perform a safe-handling demonstration with the firearm to be acquired. While the NRA & CRPA support genuine efforts to encourage the safe use and handling of firearms, the launch of the FSC Program was grossly mismanaged, and it has been plagued with problems since it took effect on January 1, 2015. The Program’s many failures were the result of the DOJ’s refusal to meaningfully engage FFLs, certified FSC instructors, and gun owners in the creation of formal regulations for the administration of the Program. Instead, the Department unilaterally unveiled a host of generally applicable “rules” in violation of state law. These rules have already cost FFLs and certified FSC instructors untold sums and will cost them thousands of dollars each year, forcing many to simply stop administering the FSC Program altogether.
The California Rifle and Pistol Association, FFLGuard, and five individuals, supported by the National Rifle Association, filed Belemjian v. Harrisin the Superior Court of Fresno, challenging the DOJ’s actions as a violation of California’s Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”), asking the court to direct the DOJ to formally adopt regulations for the administration of the Program as the law requires. In response to the lawsuit, the DOJ submitted a package of proposed “emergency” regulations to the OAL in an effort preserve the same rules it had illegally adopted. The public was given only 5 days, as opposed to the 45-day minimum under normal rule-making procedures, to offer comments.
OAL received some 9,100 pages of public comment regarding the controversial “emergency” package despite the extremely shortened comment period. To view the letter submitted by the NRA, along with the CRPA and FFLGuard, click here.
Despite this outcry, OAL simply rubber stamped the “emergency” measures, disregarding the overwhelming opposition and allowing the DOJ to circumvent the requirements of the APA by resorting to the emergency process.
The “emergency” regulations will remain in effect for a minimum of six months, during which time the DOJ must either move to make those regulations permanent or begin the normal rule-making process to adopt a new set of regulations for the FSC Program. Either way, NRA and CRPA will continue to monitor the situation, litigate as necessary, and provide updates as they are available.